Here we are with a new issue, to let you know the Masonic Poets Society is still alive. We have some new things on the site, and a new way for you to get involved.
Last issue, we mentioned the new Submissions Page. Well, either it's not working, or no one has used it yet. We still have yet to receive the first message from it. If you sent something, please let Owen know, so that he can figure out what went wrong. If you haven't sent anything, please do so: a poem of your own, a Masonic poem by someone else, an expression of willingness to help out, a letter of comment, whatever. But something, so that we can know it's working!
Only one person has sent in any new poetry since last issue, but he's sent in three, and two versions of each! A French Masonic poet, Patrick Carré has already published two books of poetry in France, “Cathédrales” (Cathedrals) and “La Femme Chair Coeur Esprit” (The Woman: Flesh, Heart, Spirit). He has translated his Masonic poems into English to share with us. However, his English is still a bit less than perfect, so if one of you bilingual brethren would be able to help him out at polishing his translation a bit, he, and we of the Masonic Poets Society, would be most grateful! Here is the first poem he sent in — others can be found on his page of the MPS website, or at his home website (mouse over the "Liste des poèmes" at the left margin of the page).
New Books on the Site
Last issue we talked about the new book on the site, Ramblings in Masonry, by Charles Fotheringham. At that time, we had a jumble of poems copied from another Internet site, with some known errors, and no hard copy to check them against to order them or correct the errors with. Well, that's now been solved, and some formerly incomplete poems have been restored, so if you haven't looked at it before, do do so now right here. If you don't know who Fotheringham was, here's his bio and one of his poems:
Charles Fotheringham (1895-1978)
Charles Fotheringham was born in Longbenton, England, about 1895. He earned degrees in Instrumental and Vocal Music. Having served in the British Armed Forces for five years, he then traveled almost a decade on ocean liners as a professional musician. He settled in Ontario, Canada in 1929, and began a teaching career in music. He and his wife Dulcie Pearl, had one child.
We are uncertain of his birth date, but he was 36 when initiated (Jan.8,1931), passed (Feb.26,1931) and raised (May 7,1931) in Port Elgin Lodge #429. Charles served as Worshipful Master there in 1939, and served as DDGM in 1943. During the course of his life, he affiliated with a dozen different lodges, including being charter member of four of them: Ashlar Lodge #701 (1959), Brotherhood Lodge #723 (1972), Cambridge Lodge #728 (1976), and Heritage Lodge #730 (1977). He was still on the rolls of 7 of them when he ascended to that Grand Lodge on High.
R. Wor. Bro. Charles Fotheringham, besides his blue lodge affiliation, was active in the Scottish Rite. He was a member of the Rotary and Lions Clubs as well as being a life member of the Canadian Bandmasters’ Association. Charles was an honorary member of the Chippewa Indian Tribe and bore the name Chief Medwayosh. But his chief interest may have been as an officer of the Rosicrucian Order (SRICF).
Charles Fotheringham died June 24, 1978.
The Working Tools of the Fourth Degree
by Charles Fotheringham
As we are assembled round this festive board,
Each in his respective station,
I now present you the working tools
Of a convivial Master Mason.
The knife is an implement made to carve
The most ancient and venerable rooster,
Not tear it apart with our fingers,
Like our ancient brethren "use-ter".
The fork is an implement to help us reach out,
Sometimes where the other guy's place is,
And carries the portions carved by the knife
To the aperture in our faces.
The spoon is a wonderful implement too,
Shaped and formed like a scoop,
You must use it with care and always beware,
Never slurp when taking the soup.
The tumbler determines the quantity there,
To limit the amount you may drink,
That we may preserve our faculties rare,
Not act like a big human sink.
But now I see you are waiting for me
To apply these tools to our morals,
But as we are not speculative just now,
We'll apply these tools to our victuals.
From the knife which is long and sharpened for use
We learn an old lesson true,
To never cut more for the hole in our face
That we can comfortably chew.
From the fork with its shoulders true and firm,
Its four prongs standing together,
We learn that Masons should always be true,
And steadfast in all kinds of weather.
The spoon is for foodstuffs that will not stand up,
Like cereals, soups or jelly,
By this we're reminded that we should be strong,
And have more backbone than belly.
The tumbler reminds us when giving a toast,
When to Master or Tyler we sip,
We mustn't forget and indulge too much,
That we may not lose our grip.
Now from the whole we this moral deduce,
These tools for our use are essential,
But never make hogs of yourselves by their use,
Or perhaps you may lose your potential.
It isn't just right to gorge every night,
With good things, to stewards' preferential,
Just take enough of all the good stuff,
For temperance is surely prudential.
So don't ever use the tumbler too much,
'Til you stammer and wobble and stutter,
Don't be a big fool with this working tool,
Or you may spend the night in the gutter.
So, brethren, be sure when from labour you're called
To refreshment, shun the attractions,
Let prudence and temperance and fortitude be
The rule and the guide of your actions.
Are you familiar with the Regius Poem? The Crown Jewel of Masonic poetry, this 15th century gem of the English language is on several dozens of websites, but none as extensive, nor anywhere near as accurate, as on ours. The next best site has at least 37 errors, most modern translations have over 50, and most Middle English transcriptions have over 100! The MPoets site has not only James Halliwell's transcription of it, and Roderick Baxter's translation, but also is the only place on the Internet where you'll find the entire Church translation, and an all new exclusive, our own Owen Lorion has made a fresh transcription of it that (in his humble opinion) puts Halliwell's to shame! What's so special about it? Read the commentary about it, read the poem itself, and if you're really interested, you can read the appendices for some colorful charts and really nitty-gritty details.
Only the first page of the Regius Manuscript has ever been put on the Internet. We've contacted the British Library about it, and received the following response:
The cheapest option is a low resolution scanned copy on CD. This will cost you £26.30. I also suggest you use registered post for £3.50 ...Please note, the price for a standard or premium resolution images is per shot/page/image. ...Further information can be found on our website at: http://www.bl.uk/imaging/index.html As you intend to use British Library images on a website, you will need to contact our Permissions Department, as there may be an additional permissions charge.
Now, the manuscript is 64 pages plus flyleafs. It's small enough that they can get two pages per shot, so that's 33 shots needed. That's £867.90, which is a bit out of our budget (currently calculated at £0.00), and seems just a tad excessive. And just for low resolution at that; high resolution would almost double it. Can any of you with British contacts possibly find a way around this cost?
Here's a 3-page teaser of the Baxter translation. Brother B. tried to keep the rhyme of the poem by including the archaic words for the last word of each line when the new word wouldn't fit, and the modern equivalent in parenthesis. The excerpt below has the modern words, but mousing over the parenthesis will show you the old word.
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum
The Art Of The Four Crowned Ones
497. Pray we now to God almighty, ( )
498. And to his mother Mary bright,
499. That we may keep these articles here,
500. And these points well all together, ( )
501. As did these holy martyrs four,
502. That in this craft were of great honour;
503. They were as good masons as on earth shall go,
504. Gravers and image-makers they were also.
505. For they were workmen of the best,
506. The emperor had to them great liking; ( )
507. He willed of them an image to make
508. That might be worshipped for his sake;
509. Such monuments he had in his day, ( )
510. To turn the people from Christ's law.
511. But they were steadfast in Christ's law, ( )
512. And to their craft without doubt; ( )
513. They loved well God and all his lore,
514. And were in his service ever more.
515. True men they were in that day, ( )
516. And lived well in God's law;
517. They thought no monuments for to make,
518. For no good that they might take,
519. To believe on that monument for their God,
520. They would not do so, though he was furious; ( )
521. For they would not forsake their true faith, ( )
522. And believe on his false law. ( )
523. The emperor let take them soon anon,
524. And put them in a deep prison;
525. The more sorely he punished them in that place,
526. The more joy was to them of Christ's grace.
527. Then when he saw no other one,
528. To death he let them then go; ( )
529. Whoso will of their life yet more know
530. By the book he might it show
531. In the legend of holy ones, ( )
532. The names of the four crowned ones. ( )
533. Their feast will be without doubt, ( )
534. After Hallow-e'en the eighth day.
Bard Owen Lorion,
on behalf of the Masonic Poets Society